Friday August 2, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jeremiah 26:1-9) Gospel (St. Matthew 13:54-58)
In the first reading, Our Lord tells the prophet Jeremiah that he is to go to the house of the Lord, to the temple, and in the temple precincts itself he is to stand up and tell the people that the temple is going to be destroyed and Jerusalem is going to be desolate unless the people change. The Lord, in telling Jeremiah this, says to him specifically: "Perhaps they will listen and turn back so that I can repent of the evil I have planned to inflict upon them because of their evil deeds." The Lord always will give us warning when He is going to do something, but the question is whether we are willing to listen. Jeremiah went to the temple of the Lord and he told the people exactly what the Lord had intended. And the Lord made it clear to Jeremiah: "You will tell them what I tell you and omit nothing." So Jeremiah laid it all out for them, and it was the priest and the prophets and the people as well who gathered around, but particularly the priests and the prophets who laid hold of Jeremiah, seized him, and said, "You must be put to death!" And he must be put to death in their minds because he said that the temple of the Lord was going to be destroyed.
So it was their own selfishness. They refused to look at what was going on. They refused to listen to what the prophet was saying because it was against them that he was ultimately speaking. They were corrupt; they were doing things that were wrong and they did not want to change. They were making too much money; it was a little too easy, so they did not want to get out of that. They liked the corruption because they were the ones benefiting from it. Whether or not God got anything out of it was secondary because some of them probably did not believe in God. It was just a matter that they were getting what they wanted and they did not want to have to change. They did not want to give up their life of ease and luxury in order to serve God. And so Jeremiah must be put to death because the message he was preaching was one which was not popular to the very people who were committing the sins.
Well, the Lord ran into the exact same thing in His own hometown. The people wanted to put Him to death and the Lord simply said, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place." The tragedy, when we look at Jeremiah, is that the native place of the prophet is among the people of God, not only in his hometown, not only among his own family. But in the Church, we are all family: We are all members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. So when the Lord tries to send somebody who is going to preach the Gospel, if we do not want to hear it because we are too much into ourselves and into the ease and the wealth and all the other things, we are going to reject it. We are no different from the priests and the prophets and the people of old; we do the exact same thing. We do not want to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it is going to require that we change our lives, and we do not want to make those changes because it is going to require something of us that is going to be uncomfortable. It is going to require something of us that is not going to be popular. It is going to require that we are going to have to be different, not only different from what we are now, but - heaven forbid! - we are going to have to be different from all those people out there who are doing evil things. And we do not want to do that, after all; they might think we are weird! They might think that we are Catholic, after all! What a horrible thing that would be, if somebody actually knew that we followed Jesus Christ and that we wanted to be one with Him!
Each one of us is called to be a prophet. Each one of us is called to be a priest and a king as well. And it was the very priests and prophets who did not want to hear what Jeremiah had to say. How about us? Are we any different? When we look at what goes on in the Church, what if somebody were to stand up and speak the word of the Lord and say, "What you see with all the beauty and all the grandeur of the external part of the Church is all going to be destroyed," what would we say to that? Would we just walk away and ignore it? Would we be angry and say, "Who are you to tell us such a thing? You must be put to death!"? Or would we be willing to look at our own lives and ask the question: "Am I serving God the way that I should be serving God?"
It is not only the temple of the Lord in the physical sense of this building and all the others like it, but it is the temple of the Lord which is our body. We need to be concerned about what is going to happen to this temple of the Lord. Each one of us is called within this temple to give true worship and honor and glory to God. Are we doing it? Or are we being false prophets, false priests, who are offering sacrifice which is blemished, offering sacrifice which is not pleasing to the Lord but is a whole lot easier for us and we are the ones who seem externally to gain by it, even though internally we are destroying ourselves in the process?
These are the kinds of things we need to think about because the word of the Lord is not always- and, in fact, is not usually - what we necessarily want to hear. God is going to call us to holiness. He is going to call us to repentance. He is going to call us to make changes in our lives in order to serve Him more perfectly. The question is whether or not we want it, whether we are going to honor the true Prophet, Priest, and King, Jesus Christ, in His native place - which is in our hearts, which is in His Mystical Body, which is His Church. Do we even want to hear the words of the Gospel? They are not easy words for us to listen to; they require a great deal from each one of us.
This prophet, Jesus Christ, needs to be honored in His native place -each one of us, that is - in our hearts and in our minds. We must give Him the worship and honor and glory which is due to Him; otherwise, the Lord will be able to stand before us and speak to us exactly what Jeremiah spoke: that this temple is going to be destroyed, and the city is going to be desolate and abandoned, unless we recognize who the Lord is and give Him honor in our hearts, His native place.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.